I know, I know. I haven’t always been kind to the Pa Liquor Control Board, but occasionally they do something right. And sometimes quite puzzling. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?
Here’s the good part. Did you know that you can go onto the PLCB’s website, www.finewineandgoodspirits.com and literally find which store has a particular bottle of wine or spirits that you would like to purchase? It’s true, it’s true! It certainly widens the selection from what may be available at your local store, which may or may not be one of the better stocked “premium” stores. A friend of ours found a rare bottle of bourbon he couldn’t find in Kentucky this way. It was sitting quietly at some store not too far away, gathering dust no doubt, and he was able to get it. You can also order things that are not normally stocked, a la “special order.” Go to the website – or their Facebook or Twitter pages – to get information on sales, coupons and more. You can even sign up to get emails on special sales.
Here’s the weird part. I think someone in Harrisburg at the Ministry of Alcohol truly believes in using the old Soviet style of retailing: Be capricious and unpredictable in your inventory, and people will grab stuff just because they’re afraid they’ll never see it again, or never see it at that price again.
Case in point. When we were in Kentucky last August, visiting bourbon distilleries, we discovered Four Roses bourbon. It’s a fascinating story. Some of you may wrinkle your noses, remembering the gut rot your great-uncle used to drink. The Four Roses distillery has been in business since 1888. In 1943, the family sold to the Seagrams Company, who took the brand name and began making a blended whisky. This is the bad stuff your great-uncle drank. Meanwhile, they continued to make fine bourbon in their Kentucky distillery, but Seagrams would only allow it to be sold for export. This is why Four Roses is the best selling bourbon in Japan, and they know their whisky. In 2002, the Kirin Beer company bought Four Roses and decided to reintroduce this wonderful, smooth and interesting bourbon back into the US market. It is now available in 40 states, and only recently in Pennsylvania.
Two months ago, I was wandering through the Doylestown state store (on Veterans Lane) and was stunned and elated to see Four Roses on the shelf. Not only was it in stock, it was on sale for $17.99, less than we could get it in New Jersey (which compared to Makers’ Mark is a very good deal; Mark and I would be happy to have this as our house bourbon). Later I also found it at the same price at the Warrington state store. Needless to say, I bought a bottle both times out of fear I would never see it again at that price.
Last week we stopped by the Fine Wine & Good Spirits state store in New Hope. It was my first time in this fancy new store, so I wandered over to evaluate the bourbon selection. There was Four Roses again! Yippee. But now there was a “Clearance” sign by it. It had been marked down to $11.99. We were stunned. Did this mean they were clearing it out forever? I automatically grabbed a bottle. We looked at the shelf for a moment then Mark told me to grab another bottle. Ah. The Soviets did know what they were doing sometimes. And the PLCB certainly has us trained.
So, long story short, the PLCB continues to amaze and puzzle. Stay tuned. And if you are into whisky and bourbon, go to your nearest state store and buy some Four Roses. Also, read Craig Laban’s nice piece on this lovely bourbon in January’s Philadelphia Inquirer.
Sadly, sales of Four Roses Yellow Label were abysmal in PA, so it got pulled. The product guys at the PLCB were sad about having to do this since it’s a good bourbon that’s making a come-back elsewhere in the country. But when it takes each store more than a month to sell a single bottle, on average, it’s hard to justify keeping it on the shelf.
The good news is that the excellent Four Roses Single Barrel is now in speciality stores for $39.99, and worth every penny. It’s complex and full-bodied, with aromas of cherry, caramel and maple syrup. Quite worth the price.
Thanks, Nathan. Now I really want to go and buy up all that I can find (and afford). I did find the Single Barrel in a local store, and snatched that. As for giving the yellow label a chance, as you saw in the article, it was barely on the shelves locally long enough for us to find it! (sigh)
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